On the Brink (again): Tensions Erupt Between Israel, Palestinian Terror Groups in Gaza Strip
Tensions between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip erupted on Saturday, when terror groups in the enclave fired some 430 projectiles into southern Israel. While Iron Dome intercepted around 90 percent of the missiles headed toward population centers (about 250), at least one Israeli civilian was killed in a blast in the city of Ashkelon and scores more were treated for injuries and anxiety throughout the daylong exchange. For its part, the Israel Defense Forces struck over 200 targets in the coastal Palestinian territory, including, notably, the homes of several Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza claimed the Israeli air strikes killed 11 Palestinians, six of whom were identified as members of terror organizations. Meanwhile, Hamas and Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad released a joint statement early Sunday threatening to increase the range of their rocket fire to cities located over 40 kilometers away from Gaza, which would place residents of Tel Aviv—whose mayor ordered the opening of bomb shelters—and others living in central metropolitan areas at risk. The IDF has since reinforced its troop presence along the Gaza border in anticipation of a major escalation, which international mediators are trying to avoid by brokering a cease-fire. “The United Nations is working with Egypt and all sides to calm the situation,” UN Middle East peace envoy Nikolay Mladenov wrote in a statement. “I call on all parties to immediately de-escalate and return to the understandings of the past few months. Those who seek to destroy them will bear responsibility for a conflict that will have grave consequences for all.” Mladenov was referring to a tacit truce forged earlier this year between Israel and Hamas, in which the latter agreed to halt all rocket fire and tone down the March of Return protests along the frontier that have been staged weekly for over 13 months. In return, Jerusalem had eased restrictions on the entry of goods into Gaza and reportedly was readying to advance infrastructure projects to help alleviate the poor humanitarian situation in the enclave. During Saturday’s flare-up, a US State Department spokesperson “strongly condemn[ed] the barrage of rocket attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza on innocent civilians.… We stand with Israel and fully support its right to self-defense against these abhorrent attacks,” she added.